Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection, Volume 20: Cosmic Adventures

 Who says that this isn't the Marvel Age of double-and-triple-dipping....?

 I have, over the past few years, reviewed much of the material in this book in various other collections. That said......Marvel does a great job of making popular storylines available. By putting this book together with a handful of others, yeah, you may get double-dipped on a few issues worth, but you can also assemble a nearly complete run of epic stories. Once again, kudos to Collection Editor Mark D. Beazley for going all-out and making this as good a book as humanly possible.

 THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTION, VOLUME 20: COSMIC ADVENTURES collects THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #'s 326-333 and ANNUAL #24, The Spectacular Spider-Man #'s 158-160 and ANNUAL #10, and WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #'s 59-61 and ANNUAL #6. To say that this is a busy collection would be a massive understatement.

 We start off with Spidey gaining the cosmic powers of Captain Universe during the ACTS OF VENGEANCE crossover, and facing off against Graviton, The Trapster, Titania, Magneto, The Brothers Grimm, Goliath, The Hulk, The Rhino, The Shocker, Hydro-Man, TESS-ONE, Dragon Man, and The Tri-Sentinel. All of this unfolds across three different titles, with all of the wonderful supporting characters and their various subplots included. This was truly a golden age for the Spider-Man books, with David Michelinie and Gerry Conway handling the scripting, and art by such stalwarts as Sal Buscema, Alex Saviuk, Todd McFarlane, and Erik Larsen, with an able assist by Colleen Doran.

 From there, we bid farewell to Todd McFarlane, and welcome new regular artist Erik Larsen, who hits the ground running, illustrating a two-part story that finds Spidey teaming up with The Punisher to track down a massive drug shipment, and another two-parter that features not only the return of Venom, but also Styx and Stone. I think Larsen just killed it on his SPIDER-MAN run...he really picked up the gauntlet that Todd McFarlane threw down and ran with it, making the book his own. Not a lot of Larsen on display in this volume, but we'll fix that in the next book that I review...stay tuned.

 The remainder of the book does something that I've been hoping for for a long time: Collects Marvel Annuals IN THEIR ENTIRETY! (Yes!) The three Annuals collected here comprise the three-part "Spidey's Totally Tiny Adventure", and while the main story is nothing earth-shattering (Spidey is accidentally shrunken down to sub-atomic size), it's a fun, solid story, with a great pedigree: David Michelinie, Gerry Conway, Stan Lee, Gil Kane, Rudy Nebres, Steve Lightle, Rich Buckler, Mike Manley, Alan Kupperberg, Mike Esposito, and Sal Buscema all contribute to what amounts to a fun, old-school trifle. Each issue is filled with back-up stories featuring Aunt May, Mary Jane, The Sandman, The Prowler, Ant-Man, Captain Universe, The Punisher, and Rocket Racer. Quality varies, but I appreciate their inclusion. Marvel's Annuals used to be, to me, anyway, a highlight of the comic-collecting year, and I love being able to go back in time and experience the complete issues again.

 There's a nice little selection of extras, including a MARVEL AGE promo page, the cover and introduction to the SPIDER-MAN: THE COSMIC ADVENTURES trade paperback, original art by McFarlane, Larsen, Kane, and Buscema, a pair of articles from MARVEL 1989: THE YEAR IN REVIEW, and some phenomenal trading card art. Overall, an excellent time was had reading this collection, and, at over 500 pages, it is a GREAT value for your money.


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